The Password Guide: 7 Steps To Creating Unhackable Passwords


Posted June 8, 2017 by Dan Madigan 

With all of our activity on the Internet, both personal and business, it is possible to have tens if not hundreds of sites with your credentials. All too often we see weak passwords, so, how can you create strong passwords that will keep your online and local accounts safe? Here are several ideas that can help you protect your data.

1.  Eight Characters Minimum

Many experts believe that passwords should be a minimum of 8 characters. Many websites, in fact, require this as a minimum and there are two reasons for this. Having 8 characters makes the password easier to remember and more difficult to crack. Additionally, each character beyond eight increases the difficulty for hackers but then again also increases the difficulty you will have in remembering it. Really want to amp up the difficulty for hackers? Use a 24-character password but be sure to think of a creative way to remember it. Be careful, not all systems can utilize empty spaces in the password but you can try filling in the blanks with special characters or numbers.

2.  No Family Names

Using names of kids, spouses and pets should always be avoided, names are considered easy-to-guess information. Names are one of the first things hackers will try when attempting to gain access to your data. While names may be easier to remember, they are also information easily garnered from social media. If you really want to use a name go back in time and find an obscure person who is easy for you to remember.

3.  Use Special Characters In Words

One effective practice is the use of special characters to replace some letters of the words used in your password. Replace the letters with characters that look similar, such as “$” for "S" and @ for A, for example: “Charles” becomes “Ch@r!e$.” Using characters like this can make it easier for you to remember your password. Simply write out the words of your password and then look at your keyboard. Several letters can easily be swapped out making that password that much more secure.

4. Use Passphrases, Not Passwords

A passphrase can be easier to remember and much more difficult to crack than just one word. Phrases can be favorite sayings, lyrics to a favorite song, or titles of books - anything else that involves more than a single word. Once you have a phrase refer back to #3 and start replacing letters and spaces with numbers and special characters. A phrase with special characters becomes next to impossible to guess or hack but be sure it is a phrase that you cannot forget. For example, “I love money”, and, it becomes “1$l0v3$m0n3y!”, or, the song, “Wake me up before you go” becomes “WkMeUpB4UGo!”

5. Replace The Vowels With Numbers

Create words that are easier for you to remember by removing the vowels and substituting them with numbers - 'Great' becomes 'GR8'.  You can also try this method with a topic or phrase to create an easily remembered and secure password: “I am too sexy!” will look like IM2S3Xy!.

6.  Reverse The Website Name  

Reversing the name of the website you are using is an easy way to remember the password to the account. Once you've reversed the name, then add memorable characters and numbers and the password becomes very difficult to crack. For example, a password for your Google Gmail account could be “Elg00g!2010.” This is Google backward, using “0” for “o,” an “!” as a special character and a significant year (birth of a child, anniversary…). This method is effective because it also forces you to generate a new secure password for each site you use.

7. Use a Password Generator

There are several websites that will generate a secure password for you and also apps you can download for your mobile devices. These websites and apps will generate a completely random structure creating a secure login credential. These tools create passwords using random lengths and characters and are one of the best forms of developing a secure password. There is a trade-off - these passwords are difficult to remember without writing them down or storing them in a password saver. These generated passwords are worth the extra step though because with them you’d have a better chance of winning Powerball or being struck by lightning than seeing the same password twice!

The more complex the password is, the more difficult it is to hack. Using the above tips will help you to protect yourself as well as your business. If you care about your network security check out the Four Winds' blog for more tips and best practices!


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